As we were having tea, his father called and we heard him talk to his dad about the store and he answered a couple of questions. Just as he was hanging up the phone he said, and not in a whisper, 'Love you Dad'.
When we were in the UK we found a Christmas ornament that looked exactly like a dress that only a drag queen would have the balls to wear. I loved it. I immediately thought of a fellow who runs a shop near us. We were a bit surprised, one day, to find out that the nice young woman who works there was his daughter. Later we found out, and met, a number of his kids. He is about our age and, during his youth tried to deal with his sexuality by marriage and procreation. He came out late and he came out big. We picked up the ornament and stowed it away. A couple days ago we took it over to the store to give to him. He loved it. His daughter grabbed it immediately and they began a friendly tussle over who's tree got the dress. Somewhere in there, he grabbed her and kissed her cheek. She said, 'Love you Dad'.
A few weeks ago, we were sitting waiting to take a flight. An older couple were sitting with their daughter who was, like the fellow in the tea shoppe, in her early twenties. They were all 'the subject of glances' (which would be the title of the autobiography I'll never write). The 'eye magnet' was the fact that she had Down Syndrome. They were all clearly tired. It was an early flight and as a result the boarding are was both full and quiet. She was leaning up against her Dad. He was reading a book. Just as she was about to nod off he said, in a stage whisper, 'No snoring, OK, I'm trying to read.' She looked up at him and giggled. Mom smiled. She said, 'I don't snore like you do, you wake up the trees!' They laughed. She said, 'Love you Dad.'
For those who are tired of 'Christmas Stuff' right now - stop reading and make what you will of the above!
For the rest:
This has always been the season of 'Madonna and Child' ... of 'Silent Night' and 'Ave Maria'. But, always, somewhere through the season and the retelling of the Christmas story, I think of Joseph. Of that guy who trusted the word of a young woman with a strange story to tell. Who was the first to believe - simply on faith - in the Christ child. His love was necessary for their survival. His love is maybe the most surprising aspect of the entire tale. But, I never hear of Joseph. Ever. Culturally, I rarely hear much about men who love well their children. But, every now and then, I get reminders, like ornaments on my emotional tree, that the human heart is simply the human heart. That love is a universal possibility. That my heart, a man's heart, can rise to the challenge of love.
Joseph sits quietly, at the sideline of the story. Simply satisfied, like no one can imagine, that that little baby will one day say, 'Love you Dad'. And that's enough for him.
(Image of Saint Joseph holding his son in his left arm while his right hand holds lilies.)